Friday, May 19, 2006

This is their view of integrity

It may be a foregone conclusion that Michael Hayden will be confirmed as the next director of the CIA. This is obviously one of those occasions where the president is almost certain to get his way, even though his judgment in personnel matters has been shown to be questionable at best.

Still, it's a little alarming that the best that can be said about his character is that he's not a liar, he's only a prevaricator.

And he's the one who said it.

At the confirmation hearing yesterday he was talking about his speech to the National Press Club, and how he discussed the government spying program. Here's what he said:

HAYDEN: That's what I did while I was speaking in front of the National Press Club. I chose my words very carefully because I knew that some day I would be having this conversations.
I chose my words very carefully because I wanted to be honest with the people I was addressing. And it wasn't that handful of folks downtown. It was looking into the cameras and talking to the American people.
I bounded my remarks by the program that the president has described in his December radio address. It was the program that was being publicly discussed.
And the key points in my remarks -- I pointedly and consciously down-shifted the language I was using.
When I was talking about a drift net over Lackawanna or Fremont or other cities, I switched from the word "communications" to the much more specific and unarguably accurate "conversations."

See that? He didn't want to tell the truth--that we were spying on millions of Americans by tracing their phone calls--so he quibbled by changing the terms of the statement from "communications" to "conversations".

Here's how the Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary defines equivocate:
Main Entry: equiv·o·cate
Pronunciation: i-'kwi-v&-"kAt
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
1 : to use equivocal language especially with intent to deceive
2 : to avoid committing oneself in what one says
synonym see LIE

Isn't that exactly what he just admitted to doing?

We've learned to our great cost that the CIA director has to be prepared to tell the truth, both to the President and to Congress. If he's admitting to equivocating, prevaricating (I think they call it "quibbling" at West Point), I don't think that's a good thing. If the highest standard he is willing to hold himself to is that he's not a liar, he's just a prevaricator, what can we expect when it's important for him to go to Congress and tell the truth?

The Post has the full transcript here.


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